After I posted about Lilac Girls, SO many of you messaged me and told me I should really read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I have always loved any books that have to do with World War II, and especially those that tell the plight of everyday people. The Nightingale follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac, who live in France during World War II. Vianne lives with her husband Antoine and their daughter in a small village named Carriveau. Her husband is called to the front lines and she is left behind to care for her daughter. She doesn't believe that their lives will change very much, but soon enough, trucks and tanks appear, and a German soldier takes up residence in her home. She must decide whether she will live with the enemy, or risk losing everything.
Isabelle is young and rebellious, and she wants to have a purpose in the wat. She meets a man named Gäetan and falls hopelessly in love with him. When he betrays her, she joins the Resistance and risks her life repeatedly to save others.
While the sisters paths and experiences are totally different, their resilience and love for their country and family is threaded in everything they do. They make choices that so many of us couldn't even dream of making, and they continue to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.
I was completely heartbroken by this book, time and time again. And while I would like to remind myself that it is a work of fiction, the truth of the matter is that there were so many who lived stories like this. It was so well written and every detail was a thread in this beautifully woven tale. As heartbreaking as it was to read, it also gave me tremendous hope that there were SO many people in the world who are willing to risk everything for what is right.
Would I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly. I've mentioned it before, but I think that every story to come out of the Holocaust, World War II, and the fight against Nazi occupation and the genocide of so many is a story that needs to be told. Because when we don't remember history, we allow it to repeat itself.
Get the Book.
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Over the last few months, by being withdrawn from a lot of the things and people that once kept me busy, I have turned inward and taken a good, hard look at myself. I have thought a lot about the kind of person I want to be and with whom I want to surround myself. I have made a mental check of who and what drains my energy, and what are the things that really fill my cup. Little by little, I have reduced the number of things that drain my energy, and I have increased those things that fill my cup.
Prayer and scripture have been one of the things that most fills my cup and that grounds me in a way that nothing else does. It had been a long time since I really sat down and thought about how I was applying the Gospel to my own life. We had been attending Mass regularly before the pandemic, and we have tried to make sure to attend virtually throughout, but my attention is never one hundred percent there, because I have small children who require my attention and correction. And while I try to remind myself often that Jesus meets us where we are, I have found that turning to prayer, reflection, and Scripture has helped to ground me throughout this pandemic. Many of the ways I pray are tailored specifically to my Catholic faith, but many of them can be adapted to fit your own denomination. Here are 5 convenient tools to help your prayer life.
Also, just like I have made my gratitude practice intentional, I have done the same for my prayer life. I have been using the Blessed is She planner, which has a checklist for daily prayer each day. Each time I post about it, I get questions. It's an awesome planner with tons of space and awesome features. If you're looking to incorporate prayer into your life a little more, I highly recommend it!
If you have any other tips, send them my way. And if you haven't tried any of these, I hope you will!
Labor Day has come and gone, and it's the unofficial end of summer. And while Pumpkin Spice has been available for a couple of weeks now, this is the time when I really start to get in the mood for it. Last week, my friend Jenny mentioned in Instagram stories that the syrup you get pumped into your favorite PSL at Starbucks actually contains dairy, and she was on the hunt for a dairy-free solution so she can still enjoy her PSLs.
YEARS ago, I had a starter blog where I tried out different recipes, and I remembered this pumpkin spice syrup being a hit at home, so I pulled it up and made some. It's really easy, and it's nice to be able to mix this into your morning (or afternoon) coffee without having to leave the house. Plus, it has really simple ingredients - so you know exactly what you are putting in there! It's dairy-free, and preservative free. AND as a bonus, it's really inexpensive to make - you may even have the majority of these ingredients on hand - this means it could save you big bucks on coffee runs.
Stir a few tablespoons into coffee or drizzle over dessert of choice.
Over the last few months, we've all gone through stages. Stages of grief, acceptance, frustration, fear. I have found that when I allow myself to focus on the negative, the dark, I forget about how much light there is in my life. I have found that actively practicing gratitude has helped my mood immensely. I have always been someone who is grateful for what she has, but I have found it even more important lately to practice gratitude.
When I forget to be grateful, I focus on my husband leaving his clothes on the bathroom floor instead of reminding myself that he serves me coffee every morning. I focus on the messes my kids make instead of on the memories they made. I focus on the things I didn't get done instead of the things I did.
At the very beginning of this pandemic, I quickly realized that if I wasn't being actively grateful for the things I DO have, I could easily fall into this hole of self-despair and woe-is-me. And honestly, that's not a place I really wanted to be. So throughout the day, I found ways to stop and be grateful for something.
I chatted with Dr. Erika Velez of The Mindful Corner, who gave me some really interesting information. Robert Emmons is considered the world's leading expert on gratitude, and he says that gratitude has two important components. The first is that gratitude is an affirmation of good things in the world. In the second, we recognize that the things we are grateful for exist outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that God and other people give us gifts both big and small to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. Gratitude is a source of strengthening relationships because it requires us to see how other people have been able to support and affirm us.
Emmons found that people who practice gratitude consistently report many benefits. Physically they can have stronger immune systems, can be less bothered by aches and pains, can have lower blood pressure, exercise more and take better care of their health, and sleep better. Psychological benefits include higher levels of positive emotions, more alert, more joy and pleasure, and more optimism and happiness. Social benefits of practicing gratitude include being more helpful, generous and compassionate, forgiving, outgoing, and feeling less lonely and isolated.
Practicing gratitude is something that requires mindfulness and intention, so while sometimes it may seem like I am just doing something to check it off a list, it is done intentionally and to build it into my routine so it becomes a natural practice. Because I have seen firsthand some of the benefits listed by Emmons above, I want to continue to be consistent in this practice.
Some simple ways I practice gratitude:
And there you have it - 5 simple ways to practice gratitude daily. It doesn't have to be a complicated process. Just make the intention to do it, and you will find yourself finding more ways to be thankful each and every day.
Let me know in the comments, how do you practice gratitude?
In times like these, I am extra grateful that my kids and my family are all generally healthy and don't have any major health issues. And recognizing the blessing that it is in our family, I know that not everyone is as lucky. There are so many out there who are still battling various diseases and require treatment on a regular basis.
And while during normal times, places like Ronald McDonald House Charities rely on the help of volunteers and charitable donations, right now they are extra reliant on the charitable donations since they cannot have volunteers on site.
I had the opportunity to visit RMHCSF with Miami Mom Collective back in November, and it was such a wonderful experience. We served meals, did arts and crafts with the families, and we were able to take a tour of the house. If you have never been there, check out this Virtual House Tour, which shares a little more about what they do there (and it's a LOT). I recently spoke with their Executive Director, Soraya Rivera-Moya, and asked her about ways we can help. They are very active on their Instagram account and regularly post what they are in need of. They have an Amazon wish list, where you can purchase items and have them sent directly to the House.
Soraya also let me know that they are currently in need of individual meals for families during the weekends. Sometimes restaurants donate meals, and other times people donate money to RMHC and they help out local restaurants. They are currently feeding about 20 people on the weekends. It costs about $8 per day to feed one person there, adding up to $160 a week. If you're interested in donating funds, you can do so here.
Gift cards can be a huge help as well. They can be delivered to their front entrance or they can be mailed. The address is 1145 NW 14th Terrace, Miami, FL 33136.
I know that times are hard for many of us, but if you're one of the lucky ones to have your job, health, and income intact, then I urge you to give what you can. If you can't give anything, share the information with friends who might be able to. And every day, count the blessing that is your health.
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